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I live in the US, specifically Utah (ugh). I am looking for a decent Air Brush set... any ideas? I know very little about them to be honest.
For an extremely cheap one, I'd suggest GW's new gun. It's actually very nice, and works like a charm. They even has the measuring on the mixing cup for water and paint! I'd give it a try when it's released.
I have a Testor's Aztek airbrush and I don't really care for it. It is plastic and very light weight. It performs ok but I like to have weight in my hand.
I have heard that Iawata is one of the better brands but they are considerably more expensive.
I am interested in the GW one because it is quite cheap - however what would concern me is that it looks like a sprayer so I am curious as to how fine of a line ou can paint with it - not to mention it appears to only come with a very large container. It seems appropriate for painting scenery or large batches of base coating. Otherwise it might be a waste of paint. I am wondering if you don't fill the jar full enough if it wouldn't work well.
Iwata is generally regarded as one of, if not the best brand out there. Very, very nice products that perform brilliantly. But it's definitely performance you pay for.
Badger and Paasche are the other 2 names out of the "big three", and they've both got some really nice stuff.
GW's sprayer is a basic single action, external mix airbrush. Good for spraying thicker media and generally used for large, simple spray work. Badger makes 2 comparable units, Paasche has one, and Iwata doesn't even bother. While a good single/external brush can be made to paint a reasonably fine line, it's not really their strong spot - these are pretty much just for base coats and clear coats. These airbrushes also tend to have less atomization than the higher end models, resulting in a coarse spray pattern. And yes, the large siphon feed paint bottle needs lots of paint to operate and it tends to waste quite a bit even after pouring the excess back into the paint pot.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, you find the high-end double action, internal mix models. These include all sorts of airbrushes, from Iwata's crown jewel the Custom Micron series to more reasonable things like the Badger Sotar 20/20 and Paasche Talon, and many more at all price and performance levels. With interchangeable spray tips, needles and accessories, these airbrushes can paint everything from a wide spray down to a pencil-thin line. They're very nice tools, but there are downsides: they're relatively expensive (or just plain expensive for Iwata!), and more complicated to use than the single action brushes. They mix the paint and air internally, which gives you a really fine spray at the cost of getting paint all over inside the brush, so thorough and regular cleaning is extremely important to keep them running at their best. Also, they may actually be too much airbrush for newer users who don't know quite how to use them - for example, a Ferrari is an incredible car, but if you don't know what you're doing with it, you may just end up wrapped around a tree or something.
Generally speaking, a single/external is the best option if you're only just learning to use an airbrush, but I'd go with a basic double/internal - it's not that much more complicated, and it's generally just that much more capable. A few things to look for:
> needle/tip size. Smaller needles let you do fine work, larger needles let you do larger sprays with thicker paints. Many airbrush sets include both, and often a medium size as well.
> Accessories. Some airbrushes come on their own, with a paint jar and a needle/tip combo. others include different needles and tips, colour cups, air hose, special tools, etc... More stuff is good, but maybe unnecessary.
> Paint feed. There's top, side, and bottom feeds. Top feed has a (usually) fixed cup on top of the airbrush and lets gravity feed the paint into the brush. Bottom (like the GW one) uses the airflow to suck the paint up. Side feed attaches to the side and is basically a combination of the other two. Mainly a preference thing, but top feed is fairly foolproof.
>Paint jars versus paint pots. The GW brush comes with a 3/4 Oz. jar, which works fine - it's simple, straightforward and it works. but it needs lots of paint to work right, and tends to be wasteful. I greatly prefer the 1/4 Oz. metal paint cups that either come with or can be bought separately for most airbrushes - they're compact, even simpler, and far less wasteful. Gravity feed airbrushes use their own metal cup that's built into the airbrush itself.
...Anyways, you were looking for ideas, so here's a few from Dixieart.
The Badger 200 comes in at around $40, and it's a hybrid - single action, internal mix. Maybe the best of both worlds?
Badger's 100 series and 155 Anthem are $60-70, the 175 Crescendo is around $80, and the 360 Universal goes for around $100.
Paasche's classic VL is around $65, their Millenium hits $60, VSR90 for $80, and Talon for $100.
Iwata's Revolution series can be had for $60 - 70, the Eclipse BCS for $100, and the rest of the Eclipse line for around $120. After that you're looking at anywhere from $170 up to $500 for a top of the line KUSTOM Micron KCP(CM). But that's just a little bit past the beginner stage, eh??
All of these should be great choices, it all depends on what you want to spend. I've personally used the Anthem, Crescendo, and VL, and they all worked great. I've watched several Iwatas in action, and they certainly seem to be worth the price tags. I'm actually contemplating upgrading from my Crescendo to a Custom Micron C, although either a Talon or Sotar seem to be much more sensible options, honestly.
Keep in mind that those were just prices for the airbrush plus some accessories, and just at Dixieart. Some may require additional extras, all will need some sort of compressor, and of course, prices will vary from store to store.
The one reason why I bought the aztek was because I got a complete kit (minus the compressor) for about $85 on ebay. Now I am fortunate enough to have a full sized shop tank in my garage - but that could end up being the most costly part of the airbrush. The downside the cans are that they get used up quickly and could produce sub par effects (especially when the can runs low or gets too cold). compressors can be quite expensive (depending on the size) and are extremely noisy when filling up.
There's some excellent information so i won't rehash it. My two cents though:
I bought a Paasche VL double action "complete kit" on ebay for 40$, it came with everything i needed (mixing bottles, 3 sizes of needles, hoses etc.) an then picked up a compressor with a brad nailer for 90$ at home depot (they thought it was broken, turns out they'd assembled the brad nailer wrong )
I use it extensively for basecoating vehicles and terrain (smoothest finish you can ever get IMO) and applying my matte varnish to the models after i'm done. I've not found a whole lot of use for it on individual models other then varnishing TBH, it's just not precise enough.
One thing to note is 90% of airbrushing is proper masking and knowing what the effects you want require. For example, there's a couple of good GW articles about using an airbrush + stickytack to get great camoflage effects on IG vehicles.
another thing to remember. you waste a LOT of paint using airbrushes. That's just the price you pay for the effects. Get used to it, and don't try and skimp out. I did, and had to strip more then a few models when it didn't work out.
Finally, Folkart paints (and other michaels cheap paint) will airbrush fairly well if you thin it down enough. I've used it for most of my terrain, covering over all sorts of stuff. The essential thing to remember is that you'll be thinning it down quite a bit, and it'll require a lot of coats. That being said, airbrushed paint drys very quickly, so by the time you're done the end of the building, the beginning should be ready to shoot again
AND WEAR A MASK / RESPIRATOR!